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Annual MAX Show entices worldwide collector audience

30 Years and Counting!

In 1984, the soon-to-be MAX Show Promoters, LTC (Ret) Thomas M. Johnson and Thomas T. Wittmann meet at the fabled Great Western Show in the L. A. Fair Grounds and point to the contract they have signed with the St Louis Chase Park Plaza Hotel to conduct the first MAX Show to be held in the ballroom of the hotel in the fall of 1985. The location was perfect, as it was in the center of the country. The hotel was glad to have the business, and exchange for 100% filling the rooms in the hotel, the two large ballrooms were given gratis to MAX. The rest is militaria history.

In 1984, the soon-to-be MAX Show Promoters, LTC (Ret) Thomas M. Johnson and Thomas T. Wittmann meet at the fabled Great Western Show in the L. A. Fair Grounds and point to the contract they have signed with the St Louis Chase Park Plaza Hotel to conduct the first MAX Show to be held in the ballroom of the hotel in the fall of 1985. The location was perfect, as it was in the center of the country. The hotel was glad to have the business, and exchange for 100% filling the rooms in the hotel, the two large ballrooms were given gratis to MAX. The rest is militaria history.

by Thomas T. Wittman, MAX Promotions, Inc.

This year, we are happy to report there will be some exceptional displays in the MAX Exhibit arena, all competing for cash and a MAX trophy. Pennsylvania high school history teacher, Paul Johnson and his British collector/partner, Chris Boddy have teamed up for a display consisting of totally documented “bring-back” articles from the war. These collectors have set demanding criteria where everything in the collections on display has a veteran pedigree.

There will be many German as well as American artifacts on display together with most interesting documentation. Dr. Rob Newbrugh, last year’s winner of “Best Exhibit”, featuring German sports uniforms, has come up with a new display for this year, featuring a gigantic and important 3rd Reich stamp collection featuring many of the exciting war-time theme stamps issued by the Germans. The collection will be wall-mounted for easy studying by viewers. The stamps of the 3rd Reich period have largely been overlooked by collectors, so this should be an exciting opportunity to learn their values and possibly begin a collection of your own.

We are also having an entry by renowned helmet expert and author, Kelly Hicks, which will feature superlative examples of SS and other Wehrmacht helmets. This display should provide an ideal time to ask Kelly some of his “secrets”, and also to get an autograph on some of his highly successful reference books.


The seminar program for this year will also be of supreme interest to historians and collectors, as we are featuring, Dr. Tom Perera, who is a world-renowned expert on the German Enigma Machine. Professor Perera operates and is curator of a museum surrounding Enigma machines in the UK. He is bringing a large display to present at the show, and on Friday evening at the Double Tree Hotel, will conduct a seminar on the subject entitled, “The History & Technology of the WWII German Enigma Cipher Machine: Why are they so valuable?” We all know about the Enigma codes and how the British cracked them early in the war and managed to keep the knowledge secret throughout the war giving a decided advantage to the Allies, but few of us know how this machine worked. This seminar should be standing room only.


As is always the case, we expect the international assemblage of dealers and their wares to be the best you will see in the hobby. There is no higher quality, or better run militaria show in the country. But, the MAX is much more than just a show. In the past, some of the best artifacts in the world have either been initially introduced at the MAX or surfaced there, often brought right in the front door by the very veteran families that liberated them. The Pittsburgh area supplied massive amounts of fighting man during WWII, and most lived out there post-war lives in the area.

This writer had the distinct pleasure to acquire an SS Honor dagger at the MAX two years ago, carried into the convention center by a family living less than 50 miles from Monroeville. Fortunately, the vet’s son started “shopping” in the back of the hall instead of the front, and luckily for me, stopped at my tables first. The dagger had been in his father’s tool box, along with two stick grenades since 1945, and wow, suddenly, there it was in a card board box being opened-up on my tables! There are not many thrills in one’s collecting life that can compare with that one.

A second seminar on Friday evening will present the popular author on wartime military thievery, Ken Alford. He is returning to the MAX to present another colorful lecture and visual presentation on his latest book, Sacking Aladdin’s Cave; Plundering Göring’s Nazi War Trophies The book details the magnitude of the art treasures acquired by Hermann Göring during his reign as Reichmarshall and the discovery by the 101st Airborne in a sealed cave near Berchtesgaden. Mr. Alford will thrill the audience with his quips and frank matter-of-fact discussion of the many “secondary” thefts and the final disposition of many of these priceless artifacts. Mr. Alford will be available for signing of his book after the seminar. This presentation is not to be missed.


Last year’s show featured the unveiling for the first time of SS Leibstandarte Panzer General Sepp Dietrich’s Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Diamonds. The ultra-rare award was purchased by German dealer, Helmut Weitze only a few days before the show. It came from one of Dietrich’s relatives living just around the corner from Herr Weitz’s Hamburg shop! And, there it was, in all of its glory, perched on a stand in a showcase at the MAX for all to see. If you were not there, you will never see this one-of-a-kind treasure again, as it now resides in the collection of a Russian oligarch.

The Hermann Göring wearing model of the famous Wedding Sword was displayed for all to ogle at the first MAX Show in St. Louis by its previous owner, Bob Thompson. After Bob sold the work of art, the sword was confiscated a number of years later by the United States government as a penalty default over a drug deal. So chances are, if you missed it, the opportunity will never come again.

Back in the late 1990s, the legendary collector-extraordinaire, Bob Waitts, displayed seven priceless Himmler Birthday Degen in a single wall-mounted case. After his death, the seven swords were all individually sold and dispersed throughout the world - so, again, if you missed it, this event will never happen again for you.

The priceless Hermann Göring jeweled Hunting Cutlass given to him by his Swedish brother-in-law was displayed in a free-standing, walk-around antique glass show case for all to see and even to “hold” for a photograph upon request. I can still see the diamonds, emeralds and tourmaline’s shining in the back of my eyes. It has subsequently been sold to a “secret” collector, so there again, if you missed it, too bad.

Three or four years ago, arguably the best damascus sword ever produced - the Hitler Honorary Citizenship Sword, commissioned by the City of Solingen and hand-forged by Paul Müller - was displayed and for sale at the MAX. After viewing the spectacular blade, the well-known American master damascus smith, William F. Moran, Jr., said the sword was easily the best work that he had ever seen and further stated that it would be impossible to produce today. It too, has gone to a private collection.

A couple of years ago, Tom Johnson had a complete Adolf Hitler silver smoking set which sold in the 6 figures to a Texas oil magnate. What are the odds that set will ever pop up again? A number of years ago, Tom also graciously displayed the storied Sepp Dietrich Honor sword at the MAX, prior to its sale to a British collector. You had your chance to see it, but if you didn’t come, you can only blame yourself. Like many of the best-of-the-best artifacts to survive the war, this sword now resides in Russia.

Two years ago, a local veteran brought into the show a unique silver and ebony hunting cutlass being a personal gift from SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler to his protege and hunting companion, SD General Reinhard Heydrich. The cutlass was complete with beautiful jeweler-done dedication. It was immediately purchased by a MAX dealer, and again, off to Russia it went.


There are many more examples I could cite, but there is not room here to go on. The point is, often the presence of such treasures viewed at the MAX may be the only time these things may be seen for another generation, or ever, in some cases. Additionally, there is not a MAX show that goes by that there will not be several SA and/or SS Honor daggers for sale. Many collectors have never seen one of these daggers in the “flesh” and the opportunity is there every year - so far. But, since these desirable pieces do disappear into collections, eventually, they may not be there - all good things come to an end.

There is no other place in the world where artifacts of this caliber can be seen or even acquired. The MAX is indeed often the beginning of the trail for artifacts that someday will be central features in museums to come. How can you be serious about your hobby and miss this opportunity!


I know that it is expensive to attend the show, especially with airline tickets soaring through the roof, high gasoline prices, restaurants and hotel bills, (what ever happened to $39.95 a night?), but often, the attendance at a MAX can literally provide the thrill of a lifetime for a collector. Where else can the ardent collector meet and converse with the world’s leading dealers and authorities? You can be sure THEY do not miss the MAX.

So, if you are serious about this hobby, get off that Forum, get up from that computer and come to Monroeville. I know that things are tight with the times we are going through in America and Europe. But, there is nothing wrong with putting off that “bucket list” Chained-SS, Knight’s Cross, or that SS Honor Ring purchase for next year or the year after.

If the purse strings are too tight, you can always look for a nice hanger for that 2nd Model Luftwaffe or Army dagger. A mint Hitler Youth armband with issue tag is a great addition to display next to an appropriate HJ knife. What’s wrong with picking up a fine Black Wound Badge or a Russian Front medal, usually for around 100 bucks? These things can enhance your collection and you are still in the game until times improve. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with this hobby that better economics will not improve.

When times get better, the hobby will still be here. Hitler yelling at us on the History Channel every night, and T-34 Russian tanks battling Tigers on the Military Channel, or the continual output of WWII theme movies all tell us that universal interest is still profound in WWII. The only thing slowing us down is the uncertainty of the job market and hopefully that will continue to improve.


All of your friends will be at the MAX and the opportunities and enjoyment to be had are unlimited. It is the one place where there are no social barriers between collectors. Everyone has mutual respect for each others’ interests. It is the one time when you will not be wondering what to talk about with the stranger standing next to you.

Guaranteed, he will not be a stranger for long. It is the one place where every one understands you and your politically incorrect hobby - it ain’t politically incorrect at The MAX!. It is 3 days of invaluable time spent, whether you are there to sell, buy, trade or just to look, gaze and admire. Don’t let another year go by without having a MAX experience.


The 30th annual MAX Show opens in the Monroeville Convention Center with official dealer set-up on Oct. 2, and show opening to the public on Oct. 3-4. For those dealers wishing to unload merchandise from their vehicles for placement under their tables, this will be permissible on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 2, after 3 p.m. As we did quite successfully last year, we will allow dealer-to-dealer buying and selling at this time, until 7 p.m.

The adjoining MAX host hotel, the Double Tree (412-373-7300) informs management that they are sold to the brim as is also the case with the Holiday Inn, (412-372-1022) located next to the PA turnpike entrance—sometimes there are cancellations, though, so best to give a call if you want to stay at these locations. The Comfort Inn at Rodi Road (412-244-1600) also reports a brisk business, but rooms are available.

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